George Floyd. Breonna Taylor. Tony McDade. Lives unjustly taken at the hands of police. At the hands of state violence. At the hands of a system that was designed to oppress, dehumanize, and terrorize Black communities. These are not isolated incidents — they are the result of a well-oiled institution rooted in protecting white supremacy. Sanctuary DMV joins in solidarity with movement leaders in calling for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and the hundreds of names that have not been mentioned.
We must abolish the police. We reject the false narrative that the prison industrial complex, which includes police, prisons, detention centers, and the military, can be reformed. We reject the notion that persistent police racism and violence can be eliminated through increased funding for “reforms” such as body cams and “bias trainings.” Structurally, the Minneapolis Police Department is an example of the ineffective reform measures propped up by lawmakers and police chiefs. Clearly, these measures have only served to reinforce and embolden police violence. The only way forward is to fundamentally transform our public safety systems to center community-led safety, justice, and accountability. Immediately, law enforcement budgets need to be slashed and their ranks need to be demilitarized, including the termination of deadly exchange programs with the IDF. The University of Minnesota and Minnesota Public Schools have terminated their contracts with the MPD in the wake of this murder; divestments such as these are an immediate and prudent step toward protecting our communities and to stop funding violence.
We echo the call of Black abolitionist organizers in Minnesota and around the country to defund the police and reallocate resources to housing, mental healthcare, violence intervention and other measures that actually make our communities safe. It is time to abolish the police, ICE, and all forms of law enforcement. The police do not keep us safe; we keep us safe.
The state enacts violence against Black people in our community daily. Washington, DC is the third most heavily policed city in the country, with 638 police officers for every 100,000 people and more police per capita than New York City and Chicago. The Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) breeds a culture of violence, allowing officers to feel comfortable enough to openly display their ties to white supremacy. In 2018, an off-duty MPD officer shot and killed 24 year old D’Quan Young, and two years later his family has yet to see justice. We demand justice for Young, Alonzo Smith, Marqueese Alston, Jeffrey Price, Terrence Sterling, Ralphael Briscoe, and the countless others who have been victims of MPD’s violence. Despite this lack of accountability, Mayor Bower continues to increase MPD’s budget. We echo the call of Stop Police Terror Project and other Black-led DC groups to Mayor Bowser and the DC Council to defund MPD. MPD does not keep DC safe; we keep us safe.
This abolitionist call extends beyond DC into the greater DMV area. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) had the audacity to brag “Our department is one of the most progressive departments in the country. Our training is nothing like you saw in Minnesota.” This is the same MCPD that refused to hold their officers accountable for the murder of Robert White in 2018, whose officer was recently convicted of assault for kneeling on a man during an arrest, and who just three weeks ago fatally shot Finan Berhe, another Black man. Across the county line in January, Prince George’s County police killed yet another black man, William Green, while he was handcuffed in a police cruiser. There is no such thing as a “progressive” police department. Leonard Shand, Bijan Ghaisar, and countless more have fallen victim to police violence in the DMV area. And in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, as across the country, police departments systematically arrest Black and Brown people in our communities and turn them over to ICE to be detained and deported. These police departments must also be subjected to systemic divestment. They do not keep us safe; we keep us safe.
We must also remember that state violence against Black people extends well beyond the police. We need look no further than the COVID-19 pandemic for irrefutable evidence of the devastating violence of a government born from and continually fed by white supremacy. Centuries of economic exploitation and systematic disinvestment mean Black people face higher exposure to the virus, greater susceptibility to infection, and heightened risk of death from the coronavirus. Black people account for a breathtaking 75% of COVID-19 deaths in DC.The police brutality that so cavalierly rips Black lives from our communities every day is only one manifestation of the wholesale rejection of the value of Black lives by our government, or elected officials, and our public policy.
How you can help: Don’t stay silent. If you are white or a non-Black POC, figure out your role. Educate yourself and confront the anti-Blackness in all the spaces you’re part of. Use your privilege and resources to show up for Black folks. Donate to bail and grassroots funds, such as Reclaim The Block and Black Visions Collective in Minnesota, the Louisville Community Bail Fund, and others around the country. Contribute, and if you can make it monthly, to DC-area abolitionist organizations: the Black Youth Project 100 DC, Black Lives Matter DC, and Stop Police Terror Project and learn about No New Jails DC and the abolition movement in our community. Get involved with and donate to local mutual aid. Protest if you can and join the struggle beyond the streets. Black Lives Matter. We must divest from police, jails, prisons, and detention centers, and invest in our communities. The time for abolition is now. We keep us safe.